I rarely bring up family issues here as I often assume they’d rather not be sullied by association. However, my parents recently received an award which I believe is worth mentioning.
For those that don’t know, my dad is a Lutheran minister in Omaha, Nebraska (“Hometown of Heroes,” as I’m known to call it). As far back as I can remember (i.e. roughly age 4), my dad has been devoted to helping others in a means beyond his “day job” as a minister. Whether waking up at 5 in the winter to shovel snow off several of the elderly neighbors’ sidewalks (as well as ours) or organizing community fundraisers for hunger relief programs or helping fight an extradition case for a Namibian political refugee or partnering with the local consumer credit counseling service to help folks struggling with debt or volunteering time at the drug/alcohol recovery programs, my dad has always seemed to draw on a never-ending supply of energy when it comes to diving into efforts that could provide relief for someone else. (Important note: those examples are all taken from a 1-2 year period… not a cumulative record.)
And my mom is no slouch in that regard, either. She currently works as a case worker for the “Every Woman Matters” program in Nebraska (an effort to ensure low-income women can receive and proceed with cancer screenings). Before that, she worked to provide in-home services to the elderly and, before that, as a school nurse. She was always heavily involved in the Parent Teacher Association, started the Familyness program (which was used as a model for “healthy family education” programs nationwide), and recently created (and continues) a program to teach “English as a Second Language” to the Sudanese (displaced by the North-South civil war) and Mexican immigrant women in Omaha.
So, when I heard from my mom a couple weeks back that their church, Grace Evangelical Lutheran, was going to be honored for its efforts around social justice, I wasn’t too surprised. While the congregation is relatively small, they have (among many other efforts):
- embraced the local displaced Sudanese refugee community (providing facilities, fundraisers, and assistance navigating governmental organizations),
- host an exercise- and health-focused neighborhood non-profit my dad kickstarted (Interfaith Health Service), and
- run an after-school “Kids at Work” program for low-income youth (wherein the students establish a savings account populated with earnings from their community gardening work).
And, while the award belongs to the church and the good folks there that joined in, pushed through, and continue with these efforts, I can’t help but be proud of my folks particularly.
This past week, my parents and several members of the congregation went to Lincoln to receive the award: the 2009 Art Palmer Micah 6:8 Justice Ministry Award. It was presented by the ELCA in honor of a Nebraskan who’d championed the cause of justice for the under-served populations. They’ve both received several awards in the past, but I’d like to think this one carried a bit more weight. Aside from carrying my name, the award recognizes the efforts that seem built into their DNA and are of paramount importance to their daily lives.
True to Micah 6:8 (paraphrased, “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly”), my dad posted but a fleeting line of text and a group photo to let people know of the award.
I, on the other hand, relish praise and attention (“I’m sure you’re already well familiar with Laaker.com,” I often pepper into my discussions.); as such, I hope someone else out there will see some of the great efforts my folks have been doing in the Omaha community for others. They both truly continue to inspire me every day, and it’s rewarding to see that their contagious efforts were recognized amongst all the great things going on across Nebraska.